Feb. 28 2024 08:40 AM

This dairywoman’s journey to become an author started with the idea to educate the public about the importance of agriculture through Pop-Tarts and a dairy steer.

It’s not every day you hear of a dairy steer mowing down on frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts instead of TMR. In this case, it was a daily occurrence for Kiley Pagel’s Jersey steer, Rosco, to indulge on the sweet breakfast treat. With it being such a fun story to tell, Kiley’s mother, Chase Ann Pagel, decided to turn it into a children’s story with a purpose.

Although Pagel did not grow up on a farm, she got her formal introduction to the farm life in 2001 from her husband, J.J. Pagel, whose family owns and operates Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee, Wis. Pagel’s Ponderosa is not only a dairy farm, but it also has an agritourism location that makes their own cheese on site, provides tours, and hosts a week-long “boot camp” that teaches kids about dairy farming in the summer. To educate children on the importance of agriculture, Pagel realized that many of the quirky things that happened on the farm could be used as a learning lesson in children’s stories.

Many years after Rosco’s strawberry Pop-Tarts eating career subsided, Pagel decided to take action about turning Rosco’s story into an educational children’s story. She set out on her journey to make this dream become a reality. In 2021, she started looking into the publishing process. After a few hit and miss emails, she received a phone call from Titletown Publishing, who agreed to publish Rosco’s story.

(L to R): Jaxen, Kiley, J.J., Jase, Chase, and Jaylyn Pagel

Slowly but surely, the story about Rosco started to come to fruition. When asked about what inspired her to write this story, Pagel said, “I want people to understand that there is more to farming, and if I can do it through fun stories of my own kids growing up, it will be more relatable.” During the boot camp that they host, they plan to read “Rosco’s Sweet Treats” to the youngsters that visit their operation to learn more about the dairy industry.

She also wants readers to understand that farms are not just a little red barn with one cow, one pig, and one chicken. On the cover, a freestall barn is illustrated — identical to the one on their own farm. The idea behind this is to help educate adults and children alike that farms may look a little different than what people generally view them as.

The concept that all farms are a farm regardless of size will be reflected in her second book, which is on track to be released this fall. This book, “Big Farms, Little Farms,” will feature many different types of farms including tree, bee, cranberry, and dairy farms.

Pagel has big plans for her future in story writing and would like to continue educating adults and children about the importance of agriculture. Her first book that features the sweets stealing steer, Rosco, will be available April 1, 2024, and she is excited that it will be selling at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Walmart. Pagel noted, “It’s neat to put your family farm stories on paper for others to read.”

Jenna Byrne

Jenna Byrne is an associate editor for Hoard’s Dairyman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2022, majoring in agricultural business with an emphasis in communications and marketing. She grew up on her family’s dairy farm near Neillsville, Wis.